Speaking to CarAdvice at the local launch of the new 298kW twin-turbocharged Infiniti Q50 3.0tt, Infiniti Cars Australia managing director Jean-Philippe Roux said he is well aware of the brand’s long road to success in the highly competitive Australian market, but that recent model launches are key markers along that road.
“Establishing a premium brand is a very long journey, so we go for different milestones. The first milestone, obviously, was the launch of the brand into the market back in 2012. And this, I would say, is the next milestone.
“Q30 and QX30 are very important because, from the volume aspect of things, it’s going to enable us to attract new customers to the brand, to the design. And the quality of the vehicles will tell something different to the brand, as the fact that this is really a step up compared to the current range.
“As far as Q50 is concerned – 224kW and 298kW – it’s a very important thing for us from a branding aspect. Any premium car brand in the market has a performance aspect to it, and this is what Q50 high-power engines will do for us.”
In the top job at Infiniti Cars Australia since September 2014, Roux – a French national who moved into the role from his previous position as regional director for Infiniti in Southern Europe – said he views the brand’s success in Australia from various angles, sighting plenty of positives to be pleased about.
“It all depends on what you define as ‘success’,” Roux said.
“There’s no one single marker of success. What we have is a roadmap. Along that roadmap you have different indicators you’re looking at – obviously volume is one, brand awareness is the second one, network coverage/number of dealers is the third one. So from that perspective, we’re on track and we’re happy with the momentum.
“This momentum is now increasing. We’ve got more dealers on the board, we have more products coming through, so we’re on track with our roadmap. I think for us, it’s an internal success.
“I think we look at it from different angles, and from that perspective, the momentum we have been having over the last 12 months – we were at three dealers 12 months ago, we have now seven, plus two service and parts – so a lot of work has been done. So from that perspective, it’s good traction, good momentum.
“From a brand awareness, we’re tracking brand awareness, we’re seeing some good steady momentum with brand awareness. And from a product perspective, our coverage of the premium market is increasing thanks to Q30, QX30, Q50, so from that perspective, we’re on track.”
Clearly keen to attract buyers away from the likes of Audi, BMW, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz, Roux said any future success for Infiniti in no way risks cannibalising sales from its parent company, Nissan.
“I would say we have two very complementary offerings on the market. Nissan has been in Australia for 50 years now, a very established brand, very strong products in market. We are a complementary offering, so there’s no danger to Nissan.
“I would say on the contrary, Infiniti is a way to keep some of the Nissan customers with the brand as such. So what we’re trying to do is work as a compliment to Nissan, whereby, people that might be willing to exit Nissan or go for something else, have now the choice to go with Infiniti.
“From a global perspective, it’s very much a Renault/Nissan alliance strategy.”
With an original product line-up comprising the FX SUV, G37 Coupe and Convertible, and M37 sedan, Infiniti sold a total of 304 cars in its first full year back on Australian soil – following a brief stint in the market in the early 1990s.
With 478 units sold so far in 2016, Infiniti is enjoying growth of 33.5 per cent, compared with last year’s figure of 358. And while growth is always a good thing, the year-to-date numbers are still a world away from those of rivals such as Audi (16,101), BMW (20,124), Lexus (6381), and Mercedes-Benz (27,156).